According to a recent survey by MoneySavingExpert, 60% of people who had a crack at haggling got a result – and that rose to 97% in smaller, independent shops.
• Don’t give up at the first hurdle: Being less British and more bolshie might not come naturally at first – and you’ll probably slip up. But don’t walk off in shame. Once you’ve got over being turned down, it’s so much easy to try again. After all, you’re never going to see the sales assistant any time soon!
• Think about your plan of action: The big department stores and ‘brand’ boutiques often have a ‘no discount’ policy – and it’s pre-programmed in to the tills. Discounts are possible, but don’t waste too much time talking to the sales assistants. They don’t have the power to deliver the reductions. Look for the floor managers and target them.
• Don’t overdo it: Having a cover story to explain why you want a discount is all well and good, but don’t waffle on too long. Explain that you’re pushed for time and you need a quick decision, or you’re only around that day.
• Don’t be afraid to walk away: Point out you’ve seen a reduction in a rival shop and if they turn you down, politely say you’re disappointed but you understand. Swing by 15 minutes later and browse. The assistant may have spoken to a senior colleague and could offer you a deal.
• Go independent: You’re far more likely to get a discount from an independent shop or one that provides goods from a range of brands. Point out similar shops and mention they’ve offered to meet your ideal price.
• Be a shop tease: If you’re after a big discount, be enthusiastic about the product when you first go in – then explain you need to think about it. Shop assistants know that you’re less likely to make a purchase when you’re out of the shop and weighing things up. So, if you pop back in shortly after they’ll be more willing to drop their prices to get a sale. Make sure you check online to find a retailer with a better offer.
• Word it well: Less is more. Make it clear you’re willing to spend – but only if the shop can offer you what you want (otherwise you’ll go elsewhere). Ask ‘closed’ questions. “You can give me 5% off that” is harder to say no to than “can you give me a discount”. And leave a pregnant pause after you’ve asked for a discount. It might feel uncomfortable, but it’s much harder for the other person to say something that isn’t positive.
It might seem at first that it's much harder to haggle for a decent discount today than it was in previous years. But have no doubt about it, there's a war going on between the high street and their new online competitors, and it's becoming increasingly brutal. Shops know they have to fight for your custom and loyalty, so be clear and upfront about asking them what they can do to match an online price - and listen to their advice about your rights if something goes wrong.
Ultimately, though bagging a bargain is great, there's often little substitute for honest, face-to-face service. So before you click to buy online, speak to your local shops and where possible, give your cash to the independents so they can stay trading in the "digital age”.
Getting some cash knocked off the sale price doesn’t mean that you lose your consumer rights. Last year, Resolver helped sort out 30,000 complaints about shopping and 26,000 about online shopping - and the service is both free and quick to use.